Conservatives often counter the proposals to legalize gay marriage with the “slippery slope” argument. I was listening to a Glenn Beck broadcast in which he warned that defining marriage between two consenting adults would open the door to incest and other deviant persuasions. Some may claim that these are different situations and that Republicans are scaremongering, but I would say that Glenn Beck has exactly the right idea. I hope that with the legalization of gay marriage, our other marriage taboos — specifically our laws against incestuous marriage — will slide down the proverbial slope into humanity’s closed-minded history.
If you think gays shouldn’t get married, you’re probably not going to be convinced by this article. But if you tend to favor an expansion of our current marital parameters, I think some reflection is in order. The laws barring interracial marriage weren’t overturned until 1967, when 15 states still had laws against such a union. God did put different ethnicities on different continents, so do we really want to violate his grand plan? It’s important that we step out of our contemporary societal (and religious) constraints and reflect on our culture and history. Our goal should be to create a contemporary world that will not have a progeny that is embarrassed of its forebears.
The logical step when we federally give gays the rights to marry must also extend the parameters to incestuous marriages. The argument that it is gross certainly has no bearing. Many people are bothered by homosexual relationships and consider them unnatural or depraved. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but that should not give these opinions any legal credibility. Our sensibilities changed for interracial marriage, our sensibilities are changing for gay marriage and our sensibilities should, and most likely will, change for incestuous marriages.
The best argument levied against incestuous marriages is its effect on children. The chance of genetic defects among the offspring of incestuous couples is increased because of an increased prevalence of recessive genes. If this is going to be the main argument, wouldn’t it logically follow that we should ban couples that are known carriers for recessive genetic disorders? Ashkenazi Jews had a higher prevalence of Tay-Sachs than the general population. They underwent genetic screening to avoid having children who had Tay-Sachs, but if a couple both tested positive, shouldn’t they be barred from having children?
Legalizing marriage in no way means legalizing procreation, and incestuous couples could easily have children even if their cohabitation isn’t legally recognized. As a form of compromise to those concerned with the children of incestuous marriages, the U.S. could arrive at a law that legalized incestuous marriage, but still barred incestuous procreation. The marriage law could require medical proof of a vasectomy or a tubal ligation. Incestuous couples simply cohabit with the marriage benefits that the U.S. extends to childless couples. What argument could people levy against people taking precautionary and socially responsible steps to ensure the prevention of children with birth defects, who want to receive marriage rights with the one they love? And if children truly are the main concern, then the legalization of same-sex incest and same-sex incestuous marriages circumvents any concerns for offspring because they obviously won’t be having any children.
Incest with minors is and should remain a crime, but its legality between consensual adults needs to be modified. Consensual incest between adults is legal in Rhode Island and New Jersey and is completely legal between consenting parties in France. In 25 U.S. states, marriage is legal between first cousins, while some have counseling mandates for cousins who want to get married. For example, Illinois allows cousins who are unable to reproduce or are 50 years or older to get married. These laws need to be expanded to all 50 states and need to apply to sibling and other more immediate family relationships. Cousins who want to get married are forced to travel to other states where it is allowed, much like homosexual couples of today.
This may be a little hard to swallow, but whatever progressive logic we apply to homosexual matrimony needs to apply to other marginalized groups within the country. It may be complicated, but that doesn’t mean we should wholeheartedly ban incestuous relationships. Our easily offended sensibilities shouldn’t create victims out of those whose love manifests itself in a form different than our own.
Teddy Papes is an LSA junior.